Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Magical mystery tours

Well, I was going to do a post about how quantum mechanics and the double-slit interferometry experiment proves the survival of the human soul after death, but I could not have continued reading the source material without having at least two shots of tequila.  Given that it's only 6:30 AM, I thought this was a bad strategy for starting off the day, so I've elected instead to write about Tours for Woo-woos.

Apparently travel to Mystical Places is becoming all the rage with people who (1) like going to cool places, (2) have a lot of money, and (3) are extremely gullible.  One company that arranges such tours, Mystical Travel, has a great many to choose from.  Let me give you a sampler of what you might expect:

1)  Markawasi: Through the StarGate -- this trip, at $2,350 per person, sends you to Markawasi, an Inca site up at 13,000 feet elevation in the Andes.  The website states, "During our time there we walk the plateau, examining the many stone shapes left for whoever survived the massive Earth changes that cleansed the world tens of thousands of years ago during a pole shift and flood. This is a monument, a museum, of what had been. Incredible as it is, this place is older then the pyramids of Egypt. Additionally, we believe there exists another stargate somewhere on the Plateau. We intend to enlist your help to find it."  My general thought is:  good luck with that.

2)  Shapeshifting a New World in the Land of the Maya -- for this one, there was no price listed.  I was requested to put in my email address if I wanted more information, and frankly, I'd rather not have these people contacting me.  Here, we go right to the source -- Central America -- in December of 2012, to prepare ourselves for the end of the Long Count on December 21.  The blurb about this tour kept using the word "shapeshifting" and I kept looking for a sign that they meant it metaphorically, but apparently, these people really believe that you can learn how to transform yourself into, for example, a weasel.  Amongst the featured activities are that you will get to "Work with shamans and deities at the shore of one of the world's Seven Sacred Lakes, Lake Atitlan, and spend five magical days investigating the jungle and archeological ruins of Tikal, focusing Shapeshifting practices at sites dating back to 800 B.C. - to open inner forces of healing and wakefulness" and that you will "feel the winds of the great vortex that emit from the cauldron of an extinct volcano that is now a bottomless lake and located those areas noted as the secret inter-dimensional passageways by shamanic elders."  I can hardly wait.  And afterwards, we can move on to:

3)  2013: Day 1, the Great Rethinking in Glastonbury -- when you've survived December 21, 2012, you can head over to England in 2013 to be part of a think tank that will help to rebuild the world.  This one is a conference (once again, I couldn't find a price) in Glastonbury, the place that supposedly has the "most powerful intersection of ley lines in the world."  The idea here, so far as I could ascertain, is that following the cataclysm of December 2012, during which there might be "some sudden quantum shift in human consciousness or an alien landing on the White House lawn" (that quote is directly from the site), there will have to be some pretty fancy footwork to pick up whatever pieces are left.  This conference will bring together people with "shamanic consciousness" to start the world on its new journey after all the Mayan End-of-the-World stuff happens.

And so on.  There are tours to Egypt (UFO related, of course); Sedona, Arizona (Native American shamanism), Greece (Atlantis, ancient gods, and the Oracle of Delphi), and Mount Shasta (to celebrate a solar eclipse that is going to "align with the Pleiades," an event that evidently is supposed to mean something).  All of which leaves me feeling like maybe I could use that tequila, after all.

Now, understand that I have nothing whatsoever against traveling, and if meeting shamans and seeking out stargates floats your boat, well, have at it.  My objection is the same one I have to most of these sorts of things; these tour agencies lead the gullible to believe that all of this stuff is true, that if you participate you actually will discover a secret inter-dimensional passageway, or whatever.  And human suggestibility being what it is, there is every reason to expect that if you think you're going to have a mystical experience while you're there, you probably will come away feeling like you did.

There's the old adage that "a fool and his money are soon parted," but I just can't help but think that there's something unfair about playing on people's credulity to make money.  But in the long haul, if they come back from their Mystical Tour (1) with some good memories of having traveled to cool places, and (2) with a feeling like they've tapped into some mystical center of the universe, didn't they get their money's worth?

I suppose that in some sense, they did.  Still, I find myself thinking of that wonderful quote from Carl Sagan, from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark: "It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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